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Location: Odense, Denmark

Published author, Ph.D. I write mostly fiction and books on music, movies, art and literature.

Friday, April 07, 2006

January 11, 2006: interview conducted at Don's place, Silkeborg, Denmark

We have to cater a bit to the Danish audience as this is going into a Danish paper.
I would like to talk about the 40th anniversary, that would be interesting. Your first official concert this year will be in Birkerød, but you can't really say that it's your 40th anniversary tour that starts there, can you, because it isn't.
Well, this year is our 40th anniversary and although it isn't the exact date it is the 40th year and this is our first tour of that particular year so in a way this is the start of our 40th anniversary tour. The real 40th anniversary tour in England at the end of the year, that'll be the Christmas tour, November/December, where there'll be at least 40 shows.
Are there any particular plans for that?
At the moment what we are talking about is maybe we could try to get different guests from different groups who'd said that they're big fans of Slade. That would be nice with a few people maybe at certain shows. That has to go into motion, obviously, because they have their own schedules as well, so we'll try to work it so we can get guests on stage with us. That would be good.
Where are you going to play this year? You're going to Russia and all over Europe?
Yeah, you can mention Russia and Europe in general, Germany obviously and all over the Scandinavia and the European countries. That's where we'll be going. And we'll be coming back to Denmark later this year to do some more shows. I think we're going to do some of the Danish festivals as well this summer. That'll be nice.

Are there any plans for new releases?
Yeah! There are talks about it. Because, okay, we have the CD that was released in November/December last year and there are talks about doing some more of the obscurer tracks. The B-sides and some of the tracks that we have never really used and then some more new clips for DVD that haven't really been used but that WERE filmed in the seventies. And then maybe more stuff from live concerts, some live concert footage, and some of the other TV shows that have never really been featured, that have never really been used before. That could be good. With the CD they are talking about a lot more of the tracks that have never really been featured, you know, especially some of the ones that we DO have film of as well, you know. So some of the B-sides like I said and some of the things that were filmed, that has never really been shown because either there weren't A-sides or there weren't singles, so that's why they have never really been used. We did some live concerts on English TV and some of the material from that could be good.
What about the present Slade? Are you going to have a new CD out?
That's what we are talking about now. We want to do a new album now. We are talking about doing it this year, definitely this year. Len, our manager, is in talk with different companies and apparently there is quite a bit of interest. I think because of the old Slade, the last CD and also the new stuff coming out so there is sort of a profile on the name at the moment. So that's a good time for us to do a new CD.
Would that be a studio CD?
Yeah. With all new songs.
That would be interesting.
Yeah, especially now that we have the line-up sorted out with the band it would be nice to do a CD with all new material.
You'll be writing again as well, then?
Yeah, we'll do it together. What we'd like to do, Lise, is lock ourselves away somewhere in one of the residential studios where we live and record, so we can record when we get inspirational, when we get ideas, so we are not like stuck to a time thing like say, from 12 lunchtime to 6 o'clock we can record. At a residential studio when we get ideas, we can go record THEN, when we have an idea: let's go put it down NOW. That would be great. We did that once before with the old band in Tittenhurst Park, the one John Lennon used to own and then Ringo took it over, and we did some recordings there once, so when we got ideas; QUICK! Let's go record it! And that's so good. We could walk from the TV-room or whatever and just go record something. It happens SO many times that if you don't put it down on a small tape, you lose it. You forget it. At least in this situation it's; quick! While we have it at present. Let's go, let's go! Even if we just record you know half a minute, 30 seconds or something, at least we have it down on tape, so we can finish off on a later date. So that's what we think we might do with the new line-up.
If you're gonna have the time for it!
Yeah, that's also the trouble! We have to take maybe 2 or 3 weeks, otherwise you know, you don't achieve anything. You need to be there and get inspiration.
Yeah, also if you just have normal studio time it's difficult to be creative on demand.
Yeah, like watching the clock, I think you have to finish now, WHAT!! Oh no!! [laughs].
The CD that got out last year, it got into the charts, didn't it?
It went into the charts, yeah. Initially when it first came out, it went into the charts. I don't know if it's on in the moment, but I've been let to believe that there's a lot more promotion work to go on now. It was fun to see that in the charts, actually.
Is the any hope for a reunion of the original Slade?
Well, they say, never say never, but to be honest I can't see it, Lise. From the bottom of my heart, I can't see it happen.

It is now publicly known that you live in Denmark.
Yes, it has been quoted in a lot of media things and a lot of people sort of know it. And when they know I live here they always ask how did you meet? How did you and Hanne meet, and we always tell them the story.
Right, tell the story once again.
Well, what it was is we were playing in Silkeborg probably about 5 years ago. I met Hanne later after the show and she said that she had a drumstick of me back in 1973 when we played in Aarhus. Her mother took Hanne and some of her school friends of the time and I don't know how it happened but Hanne got a drumstick that night. And she still has it! It's a different colour tape banding now [Hanne's is red, whereas the present is black, ed.]. And I thought she was joking when she explained it to me, that she still had it after all those years. And that was how we met. I DID remember that we played Aarhus twice I think in the seventies, 1973 and 1974, and she said that all her friends got together to go to the show, but they had to buy Hanne's mother a ticket for the concert as she was to drive them, obviously. And then the story is this, that Hanne's Mom was a speech therapist at the time and she forced the girls to put gum in their ears to protect them from the noise of the concert! [laughs hard] And the gum sort of melted, so later they got into trouble with the school nurse, because they still had bits of chewing gum in their ears! [laughs].
How do you like it here in Denmark?
Oh, it's wonderful! It's a beautiful place, and I'm not just saying that. I find it so peaceful, it's so peaceful living here and still there's so much going on. What I like is, that apparently in Denmark, the authorities whoever they may be, they really care for the young people, of their interests. Like I was asked to go to this music school and talk about Slade's career, and when I got there, they had all this equipment there, amplifiers and drums and guitars. And there were quite a few of the kids there, and they had lots there for them, and they swap ideas and go on play, taking turns and just jam, really. And I think it is wonderful. And I did a question/answer thing from the stage, so they could ask about Slade's career and certain things relevant to having a record deal. And I was explaining about certain aspects about recording, which they were interested in, obviously. Then I jammed with the young guys, and then one of them said to me, "You're a fantastic drummer for an old man!" [Don laughs hard] That was just wonderful!!! [Don can't stop laughing] It was SO good!! [still laughing for a while, then getting back to the conversation] But I think it is great that they are sort of given opportunities. They may get that in England now, but obviously when I was that age we didn't have anything like that, maybe they do in certain places now, but not as I know of. I think it is wonderful opportunities that are given to the younger generation of Denmark. And the young kids at the music school were so friendly. All together it was just so good, to see that kind of thing, that they respect everything. I think it's wonderful. And also there are so many concerts around in Denmark anyway, not just the old bands but everything, lots of sort of all across the borders of the music business, different things. The opportunities are THERE to go and see or listen or whatever to anything in the music business and I think it is great. The opportunities that the young people are given in Denmark are wonderful.
Slade has always had a big following in Denmark. You must get recognised when you walk the streets?
It's happened since there's been a few features in the local newspapers and things like that. I did a few interviews with reporters here in Silkeborg. I've been living here full time for 1½ years now. Nowadays since the features have been published, when I'm going certain places like the record shops or the cafés people say, we thought we recognised you, but we never imagined that it was you. And somebody once said, didn't you used to be Don Powell? And I said, I still am! [laughs].

Many of the old fans still go to you concerts. Isn't that a bit weird that the same people are still there?
Well, Lise, the thing is that they bring their children now! And many of them still remember certain things from when we toured here a lot in the seventies, they still remember so many things about it, the records and so on which is wonderful.
Maybe the fans sometimes remember more than the band?
Oh, yeah! They can pick you up and tell you things that no way I would ever remember, things about quotes and even articles from that period; you said this and you said that, do you still stand by that? And I don't even remember saying it! [laughs hard] But they remember these things. A funny thing was that at a concert, it must have been a few years ago, and there was this fan from the seventies and he was with his daughter and we met them in the street and he said, do you know who this is? And she says, no. And he says, that's the drummer with Slade. Do you remember them? You know Slade. She goes, Oh, didn't they sing about Christmas? [laughs] Of all the hit records we've had people remembers that. But that's the one, I mean, the Christmas record obviously appeals to every age group, so there's no way you can like ignore that particular record. You can forget all the hit records but people always remember Merry Xmas. Especially when we tour at Christmas time, when the contracts are made for the shows, there's always a clause that says they must finish the show with Merry Xmas. We would do that anyway, 'coz once you play that song you can't play anything else. You can't follow it with anything else. So we have to finish with that one. Which is wonderful.
And I think it's fun at a Slade concert when you look out at the audience these days you see all these 45 and up.
I know, I know! And it's great because a lot of these people said to me, I've just totally relived my youth! And like I said, they have their children with them and the children are embarrassed by their parents! [laughs]

About the anniversary should we say some more?
Well, there are also talks about us doing on-off things coming up, big shows in England that we may be asked to appear on because of the 40es anniversary.
It's a bit amazing that you're still here after 40 years, because not many bands are.
It IS amazing. I always quote that I said, when we first started having hit records, and people asked, how long do you think you'll go on for now?, I said, well, I'll give it five years [laughs] and here we are, we are still carrying on. But I've always said that as soon as I stop enjoying it, I WILL finish. I'm not gonna go on stage just for the money or for whatever, I'd rather stop myself personally as soon as I stop enjoying it. I've met so many bands over the years that don't want to go on stage! [Don sounds baffled] When they are doing a concert; oh, I wish I was at home watching TV and they MEAN it!! It's not just a silly quote! And I said, well, how can you DO it then? You know, you can't just go on stage as a robot and go through the motions of doing something.
I think that one of the reasons why people keep hoping for a reunion is that you are one of the only bands that actually COULD do a reunion, because you're all still alive!
Yeah, and I also think we all still have the ability to do it. It WOULD be nice, it WOULD be nice and it may only take a couple of mails or phone calls, to get it in gear, to put it back together again, but I think we have to wait and see. I'm not ultimately ruling it out.
When you think about the other bands of that time…they are not there anymore.
No, I know. It's amazing how many of them are dead. You don't realise it. Be it just natural causes or brought on by themselves, it is really the same. You sort of forget, you know. I think it IS wonderful that we can still go out and tour, especially now the world is such a small place these days and the borders have broken down a lot so we can go to Russia and places like in the seventies there were NO way we were ever getting there. It is SO good. I just hope the younger bands of today realise what an opportunity they have to really open their eyes to see the different cultures and different things around the world. As I've always said, it has been my education.
You're rather big in Russia and the former Eastern bloc, aren't you?
Yeah, in those countries and Russia as well they know so much more about the band than what you'd ever think, you know. And they say, why didn't you come here in the seventies? [laughs] It's obvious why we couldn't be there in the seventies. In the early seventies when we had all the big hit records we went to East Berlin to do a TV-show and I was kicked out of the TV-studio for chewing gum. That was Western decadence. I didn't know! They were shouting at me in German and pushed me out of the studio and I couldn't think what I had done wrong! And then I saw the guy who was looking after us from Polydor which we were signed to in those days, and I said; please, talk to them, I obviously did something wrong. And he said, take the chewing gum out of your mouth! It's Western decadence!

To get back to the CDs and the DVD, because as far as I know they're not going to be released in Denmark until Friday.
Oh, really? I didn't realise that!
I thought it a bit weird to release it AFTER the Christmas sales.
Yeah, I was under the impression that it was released in all the territories, Lise, but come to think of it I haven't seen it in the shops. I wondered why I hadn't seen it in the shops or seen any advertising or something like that.
I have to write a bit about the releases…well, what can we say about that? That's mainly the big hits, but on the double CD there's also some stuff, which is not just hits, some live things as well.
From the Reading Festival, or…
Yeah, I think so.
It was the Reading Festival that brought us back to focus, really, because we hadn't worked together for quite some time and Ozzy Osbourne pulled out of that particular festival, he didn't feel his band was ready and we were offered his slot of the show. Our manager at that time, Chas, said, you must take it. We said, but we haven't toured for a long time. He said, it doesn't matter. And we had like maybe 2 or 3 days rehearsal and went there and did the show and that was recorded for the BBC in England and we bought the masters of them and released like an EP as it was at the time with four tracks.
Yes, it's one of those tracks that is on the CD. I think it is Born To Be Wild.
Is it? Okay. There's one song from Reading, When I'm Dancin' I Ain't Fightin' that had a lot of radio play in England at the time when it came out.
And the DVD…that's pretty much Wall of Hits and Set of Six and some more. But there are some changes…Merry Xmas…
Yeah, it's a different version. Not the one where I'm drunk! [laughs] I think it was much more fun and I don't know why they decided to use another one there!!

There's just one thing, I have to ask you about that, that's not going to go into the Danish paper, but, when you did the Play It Loud-album you wrote a song with Jim Lea called I Remember. I've always wondered about the lyrics, because it's about a man who loses his memory.
Oh, yeah. I actually never thought of that.
And that was 3 years prior to your accident.
I never realised that! Well, that's strange…that's strange, isn't it!! I wrote the lyrics! That's spooky! I never thought of that! That's strange, that! I don't know why I wrote that. I don't remember what the inspiration was at the time when I wrote the lyrics to that one, but that is VERY weird! It IS strange. I never even THOUGHT of that. That is weird. I'd never even realised that, I'd never even given it another thought. [laughs] That IS weird.
As most writers will say, you have to be careful what you write, because sometimes those things then happen in real life.
Yeah, I must be more careful in the future about what I write! [laughs]

And then there's another thing…we just talked about that you always do Merry Xmas as the last one. But wasn't there a time when…when you went off stage it was to Singing In The Rain. Why?
I think it was Noddy Holder's choice. He's a big fan of that particular era. It's like nowadays we go on stage to the Thunderbird-theme. There's not particular reason for that. It's just a good one to go on stage to.

Right. Well...I don't know if we need some more on the B-sides…
We've always wanted to do a CD with some of the early B-sides. It WAS planned a few years ago to be called "A-sides of backsides", but it never happened. But I think the next CD will feature quite a few of the B-sides. It should get out this year, at least that's what the plan was. I like the title "A-sides of backsides" [laughs]

What else do we need…Sweet…I don't know if we need to go into that Sweet-thing again.
We can do that, Lise.
Because all the January/February concerts in Denmark are with Sweet…
Sweet will be finishing those shows. With Mal in our band and Andy in the other, it's like a marriage! We've done quite a few shows together since Mal has been in Slade and it's quite nice.
Mal could just stay on stage all evening, couldn't he?
Yes! [laughs] I never thought of that!
With Mal and then John on the violin you're approaching the original sound?
Yeah, we try to do that. What started that, Lise, was because of Mal's voice, he's leaning more towards the Noddy Holder sound. We had to change some of the keys back to the original keys, so that was when John decided to use the violin.
Yes, I wondered why he did that, because in Bilston he told me that he didn't particularly like to play the violin.
No, but it works good, though.
During the sound check in Bilston I heard him have a go at Run Runaway on the violin.
Yeah, maybe we will do that as well, try that. But even with the old band, Jim never played violin on stage during Run Runaway.
That's also why I wondered if a new CD was going to be new stuff or the old things with Mal.
It'll be all new things. There's no point in…with all that is being released… how are we going to top that? Why compete with ourselves?


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